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OHA sues for
environmental report
on Mauna Kea project

By Pat Omandam

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has filed a federal lawsuit against the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to force an environmental impact statement before it can go ahead with a project on Mauna Kea.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Honolulu against NASA and the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy, seeks an order to compel NASA to assess environmental impacts on cultural and natural resources resulting from NASA's plans to fund and construct four to six outrigger telescopes at the existing W.M. Keck Observatory.

These proposed 6-foot "outrigger" telescopes would work with the 33-foot primary Keck telescopes in a $45 million project aimed at looking for life on planets outside our solar system.

NASA and UH officials could not be reached for comment late yesterday. NASA has been consulting with native Hawaiian groups over the development, as required by the National Historic Preservation Act.

OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona, in a statement yesterday, said she was disappointed at NASA's refusal to complete an environmental impact statement. The agency recently published a final environmental assessment that found the outrigger project would have no significant impact on Mauna Kea.

"The native Hawaiian community has clearly spoken on the issue of Mauna Kea," Apoliona said. "It is one of our most sacred cultural resources. The community has repeatedly told NASA that its project will have very damaging effects on this treasured resource, but NASA has simply ignored us."

Apoliona said NASA's erroneous assessment of the area is being used by the Institute for Astronomy, forcing the Hawaiian agency to seek legal action for a full environmental impact statement.

Earlier this year, former OHA Chairman Clayton Hee proposed NASA pay Hawaiians $20 million in endowments for using the Mauna Kea telescopes.

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